Yes, you read correctly! If you have pastures, the actions you take over the next couple of months in your pastures will affect them next spring.
Most pastures in the Capital Area might be able to be grazed one or two more times (maybe longer depending on your location) this fall. By giving your pastures an in-depth look now, before they are completely dormant, will enable you to make better decisions.
If any of you have ever been part of a pasture walk, you are well aware of how much you can learn just by walking through a pasture. So, the first step in getting your pastures ready for next spring is to conduct a pasture walk on your own property. You may even want to invite a fellow grazier because two heads are almost always better than one when it comes to problem solving. On the pasture walk, make sure to get a detailed look at everything - fences, gates, lanes, cattle crossings, heavy use areas, watering facilities (or lack of), bare areas due to overgrazing, grass species, and weed infestations.
After determining that your fencing and gates are all intact, think back to your grazing season. Were the pastures well-grazed or did they get too mature too fast? Were they selectively or evenly grazed? If you decide that the pastures matured too fast, or that they were selectively grazed, maybe you should consider decreasing your paddock size. Yes, it might be more work to decrease your paddock size as it may mean moving a significant amount of temporary fencing on a regular basis, but the benefits will most likely outweigh your extra labor.
Figure out whether or not the species in your pastures worked for you and your herd. Did they prefer to graze one species over another? Were you able to manage one species better than the next? Maybe you were in a drought stricken area this year that had made you think about planting something that is a bit more drought-tolerant.
If you have heavy use areas, which are defined as areas where vegetation just will not grow due to heavy animal or machinery traffic, now is the time to stabilize them. Examples of heavy use areas could be lanes or areas around watering facilities and barn entrances.
Last but not least, in order to get your pastures ready for next spring, you should have a Soil Test done, especially if you have not had one done in the last three years. You may ask why you need a Soil Test if you are not growing any row crops, but you need to remember that your pastures are your crop. And, just as row crops need optimal soil conditions to thrive, so do pasture grasses.